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Williams Sisters Making a Point


SYDNEY, Australia — The U.S. women's doubles team of Venus and Serena Williams won their way into the Olympic gold-medal match here today and also were one victory away from contributing to two items of interesting trivia.

If the Williams sisters can follow up today's 6-4, 6-1 victory over the Belgian team of Dominique Van Roost and Els Callens with a victory in Thursday's title match, they will become the reigning Wimbledon and Olympic champions--and won't have a ranking on the Women's Tennis Assn. Tour.

The Williams sisters, who will play the winner later today of the match between Kristie Boogert-Miriam Oremans of the Netherlands and Olga Barabanschikova-Natasha Zvereva of Russia, do not play enough doubles on the women's tour to have acquired sufficient points to earn a ranking.

That makes the points system somewhat of a joke, since the USTA decided to put them together for the Olympic doubles team anyway, casting aside in the process the No. 1-ranked doubles player in the world, Lisa Raymond.

The Williamses weren't seeded here because of that--Van Roost and Callens, at No. 5, were the only seeded women's doubles team to make the semifinals--but it matters very little where the Williamses start in the bracket, because they usually finish in the same place, as champions.

The victory also put Venus Williams in position to take both a singles and doubles gold medal, something that hasn't been achieved by an American since 1924, when Helen Wills did it in the Paris Olympics. That was the last year for any kind of tennis in the Olympics until they tried it again as a demonstration sport in Mexico City in 1968, and in Los Angeles in 1984. It returned to medal status in 1988 in Seoul.

Since the Williams sisters lost the final of the 1999 San Diego tournament at La Costa, to Lindsay Davenport and Corina Morariu, they have won 32 of 33 matches. That includes their title at Wimbledon, but does not include a loss by walkover in the 2000 U.S. Open, where Venus Williams pulled out before the semifinals with an injury that she wanted to rest for the singles final. Had she stayed and had they won the U.S. Open, too, it would have given them four titles in the last four Grand Slam events they have entered. They have won the 1999 French, the '99 U.S. Open and the 2000 Wimbledon.

The Williams sisters are only the third team of siblings to play tennis for the U.S. in the Olympics. The first team was Georgianna and Marion Jones in 1900 in Paris and the second Arthur and Joe Wear, great uncles of former president George Bush, in 1904 in St. Louis.

The Williamses started slowly, playing with the same mood as the cloudy and rainy day around them. They even got down a service break in the first set, but quickly broke back and broke Van Roost again at 3-4 to take over the match.

The Belgian team may have set the strategy of the game of doubles back a number of years when they decided, apparently out of respect for the power of the sisters, to try to win by playing defensive doubles.

That went so far as to include the partner of the server on the Belgian team often pulling away from the net for a second serve.

The strategy allowed the Williamses to take over the net, which is the whole point in the game of doubles, anyway.

Rain delayed the start of today's program for nearly three hours, but once the men's singles got underway, Germany's Tommy Haas made short work of Switzerland's Roger Federer, 6-3, 6-2, and will face Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia for the gold.

Kafelnikov beat Amaud DePasquale of France, 6-4, 6-4 in the other semifinal.

The men's event here turned into a real eye-opener for those who scoffed at players saying that it followed too closely on the heels of the U.S. Open for players to be competitive in both.

Of the men's players who made the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open, only one won a match here--Arnaud Clement of France, who then lost in the second round.

Pete Sampras and Richard Krajicek didn't play here, and the other six men's quarterfinalists were Lleyton Hewitt, Todd Martin, Thomas Johansson, Nicolas Kiefer, Marat Safin and Clement.

Also scheduled later today was the women's singles bronze-medal match between Monica Seles and Jelena Dokic of Australia.


Medal Tennis

Today's matches:

* Men's singles bronze-medal match, Roger Federer (Switzerland) vs. Arnaud Di Pasquale (France).

* Men's doubles gold-medal match: Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde (Australia) vs. Sebastien Lareau and Daniel Nestor (Canada).

* Men's doubles bronze-medal match: David Adams and John Laffnie de Jager (South Africa) vs. Alex Corretja and Albert Costa (Spain).

Wednesday's matches:

* Men's singles gold-medal match: Tommy Haas (Germany) vs. Yevgeny Kafelnikov (Russia).

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